Wanted: Scientists to operate complex imaging systems
Alumni
Student Stories
Remote Sensing
Faculty/Staff

The U.S. workforce is undergoing a generational shift as baby boomers near retirement age. The national defense and intelligence communities, in particular, stand to lose scientists and engineers with decades of experience in imaging systems that track environmental change, natural disasters, peacekeeping efforts and matters related to homeland security.

Mar. 24, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz

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Matthew Montanaro ’05, ’09                                                Ariel Schlamm ’06, ’10

In an effort to put the issue on the national agenda, experts from RIT, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) and the imaging industry shared their concerns with Congressional representatives, aides and staff from the House Armed Services Committee and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence late last year. U.S. Rep. Louise Slaughter, D-Fairport, sponsored the briefing.

The RIT initiative drew upon a report written by the Subcommittee on Technical and Tactical Intelligence in 2008 for the U.S. House of Representatives, which calls for workforce development in imaging science and remote sensing and partnerships with universities.

RIT President Bill Destler, Professor David Messinger and industry representatives who attended the Dec. 3 event emphasized the need to cultivate the next generation of scientists and engineers to develop, build and operate complex imaging systems.

The university presented itself as part of the solution and sought sustained funding to produce more Ph.D. students and research critical to the defense and intelligence communities.

“We feel that we can graduate more students every year out into the field with the science and technical background to understand the capabilities of an imaging system, what it can and can’t do and how to process the image to get the information you want out of it,” said Messinger, associate research professor and director of the Digital Imaging and Remote Sensing Laboratory in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.

Building relationships

Federal agencies looking to hire U.S. citizens to fill defense and intelligence positions are facing a workforce shortage and a knowledge gap, said Stefi Baum, professor and director of the Center for Imaging Science.

“The U.S. has not been good at training U.S. citizen Ph.D.s in the STEM fields, and for agencies doing security-related work, it’s a huge problem,” Baum said. “The U.S. has had 20 years of not producing scientists and engineers to feed into that and has been relying on people who are from the Sputnik era who are retiring. There’s a large awareness of that but exactly what to do about it hasn’t been well addressed.”

The Center for Imaging Science seeks to grow its remote sensing lab and its other related imaging laboratories through sustained relationships with the federal departments and agencies that routinely hire RIT graduates. Messinger and Baum envision targeted recruitment of imaging science graduates akin to Toyota’s formal courtship of RIT’s mechanical and automotive engineers.

Prior to the Congressional briefing, Destler and Messinger met with key members of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency to discuss starting a formal relationship with RIT’s imaging science program. RIT Board of Trustee member Jeffrey Harris ’75 (photographic science and instrumentation), chairman of the Open Geospatial Consortium and a former director of the National Reconnaissance Office, acted as their primary contact with the agency.

Harris described his experience working with imaging science graduates while he served in both government and industry as “having the right skills on the team.”

“The STEM-educated, tech-savvy specialist—competent with imaging systems—is a valued member of the new integrated-information eco-system,” he said.

According to Messinger, 10 to 15 percent—or 13 RIT alumni, mostly with imaging science and photo technology degrees—“dominate” the NGA’s image science group. Team leader, retired U.S. Air Force Officer Michael Foster ’07 (imaging science), NGA Image Science Integration Lead in the Office of Sciences and Methodologies, earned his Ph.D. through an Air Force advanced education program that sends officers to study imaging science at RIT.

“Clearly, we’re doing something valuable because their human resources people are hiring our graduates for these critical positions,” Messinger said. “But there is no longer-term strategy.”

Center for Imaging Science

Messinger met in January with the head of human resources and other specialists to further explore a strategic relationship between the NGA and RIT, including on-site training for scientists at the agency. Discussion with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency remains ongoing.

“We hope to convince the NGA and other governmental agencies to generate a significant amount of funding to support five to 15 graduate students a year,” Messinger said.

The Center for Imaging Science graduates approximately 10 to 15 undergraduate and 20 master and doctoral students per year. The undergraduate program hovers between 40 and 50 students, while the graduate program claims 110 to 115 students.

“Even if we produce 20 Ph.D.s a year, that makes a big difference because one of these people with this kind of training can influence a large swath of the industry and federal capability,” Baum said. “The difference is in what they can do and in their multiplying effect. They can help train the others around them and provide this imaging-systems perspective that people trained in very specific aspects may not have.”

Imaging systems attached to planes or satellites juxtapose optical cameras side by side with infrared sensors to capture information beyond what the human eye can see. Some imaging scientists develop the instrumentation to collect data; others write the algorithms, or computer programs, that turn data into useful information by processing and interpreting imaging data and creating geospatially accurate maps.

“Typically, agencies will have to train physicists, mathematicians, computer scientists or engineers as much as they can in the imaging system,” Baum said.

“RIT brings everything together in an interdisciplinary way. It’s math, physics, engineering—and we produce a student who is an imaging scientist—and those people have a different level of understanding and knowledge of the end-to-end system of imaging—how to apply imaging systems, how to design them, commission them, do the program management for them, how to make sure that they’re going to get the imaging system that will attain the results they need.”

Adds Baum, “It’s not enough to take the end data and write an algorithm for it if you don’t understand how to develop the system that takes the data.”

Matthew Montanaro ’05, ’09 (physics, imaging science) came to imaging science with a physics background and appreciates the end-to-end perspective he has developed.

“Having my physics degree was a good base to have but my graduate project forced me to become familiar with engineering and computer science and technical writing,” said Montanaro, a Landsat calibration scientist who works for the Sigma Space Corp. as a contractor to the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. “It definitely made me more rounded in terms of technical skills that really allowed me to be desirable to an organization like NASA.”

The nuances of imaging science are a product of the education, he said.

“I think that having the imaging science background allows us to be sort of an interface between the engineers building the sensors and the scientists and analysts who use the data,” Montanaro said. “That’s very beneficial out in the workforce since it lets you see the big picture. You can see how all aspects of the imaging system tie together.”

Ariel Schlamm ’06, ’10 (imaging and photographic technology, imaging science) is a senior sensor systems engineer at the MITRE Corp., a federally funded research-and-development center in McLean, Va.

Schlamm applies her strong mathematical background to evaluating the quality of remotely sensed imagery and developing algorithms for extracting information from images. She attributes her imaging-science coursework to her easy transition from graduate student to team member “working on remote sensing technologies, with little or no time required for training and getting up to speed.”

Graduates from RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science have a good reputation for being able to “dive in quickly,” she said.

“In the defense community, when people find out you have a degree from RIT in imaging science, they immediately trust your abilities and understand what you can bring to a project,” Schlamm said. “Often those who work with us say they wish they could hire more graduates of CIS, but unfortunately there aren’t enough of us graduating each year.”

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Original Source: University News

Female faculty ‘Lean In’ toward successful recognition of academic work
Faculty/Staff
WiSTEE

Connectivity session panel provides strategic, practical advice for advancing in academia

May. 14, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz

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Michelle Cometa

RIT faculty Manuela Campanelli, left, Callie Babbitt and Kara Maki discussed strategies for increasing recognition of academic work as part of a professional development panel sponsored by AdvanceRIT.

“Talking can transform minds, which can transform behaviors, which can transform institutions.” - Sheryl Sandberg, chief operating officer, Facebook

Nearly 20 female faculty from across campus and at varied stages of their careers “leaned in” this past week for a panel discussion, “Daring Appreciation: Strategies for Increasing Recognition of Your Work.” The event was part of the Connectivity Series, a professional development initiative launched this spring by the AdvanceRIT program, a campus-wide study to decrease institutional barriers to female faculty’s career progression.

The focus of the panel on recognition was based on how rewards and recognition play a part in securing tenure, broadening research initiatives and contacts, and in opening doors to academic service and leadership opportunities as well as promotion.

Panelists were three of the campus’ accomplished female faculty-researchers. They provided strategies about building toward successful recognition including: actively seeking out public forums to discuss work, both on and off campus; relating with senior faculty and campus leadership; developing mentor relationships; and promoting the work of other women, including nominating female peers, or self-nominating for high profile campus awards, committees and leadership positions.

Over a five-year period, from 2007 to 2012, the percentage of RIT campus-based, academic awards received by female faculty was slightly more than 12 percent, according to new research by AdvanceRIT into results of the faculty award process at the university. In this study, the gender distribution of university awards is proposed as an indicator of progress toward achieving parity for female faculty.

Panelists Callie Babbitt, Manuela Campanelli and Kara Maki, all RIT distinguished faculty, have been among that small percentage of female faculty recognized for both effective teaching and influential research. They talked about balancing strategic, purposeful conversations and activities with more personal approaches that allow female faculty to be seen as accomplished as their male counterparts.

Babbitt, assistant professor in RIT’s Golisano Institute for Sustainability, recommended women seek out opportunities to become recognized as subject matter experts by responding to media requests, presenting regularly at conferences, speaking at community events and collaborating on interdisciplinary projects. To her, it is a way to advance information about her field of sustainability and to support efforts of women in STEM fields.

“Recognition for your work is an important part of career advancement,” said Babbitt, a 2013 recipient of the National Science Foundation’s CAREER Development Award. “But it also provides a platform from which I can share advances we’re making in sustainability and help get female students excited about STEM careers.”

Campanelli agreed, and added that being visible allows for different conversations with peers, and seeking out or becoming a mentor. Early in her career, the professor and director of RIT’s Center for Computational Relativity and Gravitation had a mentor who was strong in her field and who gave good advice about the sometimes puzzling and lengthy process of looking into, and applying for, research grant opportunities.

“Seek out a mentor and use the experiences that person has to share. Value what they have to give you,” said Campanelli, who recently was designated as one of RIT’s Trustees Scholarship winners, given in recognition of significant contributions to research. (Professor Jennifer Schneider of the College of Applied Science and Technology also received the prestigious award for this academic year.)

What mentors give can vary from informal encouragement toward goals to the more formal recommendations and endorsements for grants, the tenure process or for collaborative projects, said Maki, an assistant professor of mathematics who came to RIT in 2011. She was designated a Rising Star in RIT’s College of Science in 2013. “Sometimes you have to actively seek out and identify allies or advocates—in your field and within your college. For example, sometimes people may ‘tip their hand’ about who they are in the positive review they have written on your paper or grants. I think of these faculty members as advocates.”

Confidence in their abilities, a desire to learn as well as teach, and an understanding that they must support each other was also key to career advancement for the panelists. But it also meant advocating for other women, and “talking about each other’s work,” said Campanelli.

Connectivity Series programming will continue discussions about that work and other professional development strategies for faculty. More information about the series can be found on the AdvanceRIT website, or by contacting the series coordinators, Sharon Mason, associate professor, information sciences and technology, and Carol Marchetti, associate professor, mathematical sciences.

The AdvanceRIT team’s new research, titled “Faculty Awards at a Large Private Institution: An Indicator of Evolving University Values,” will be presented at the 2014 American Society of Engineering Education annual conference scheduled for this June.

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Original Source: University News

RIT professor named to Society for Imaging Science & Technology Board of Directors
Faculty/Staff
IS&T
Color Science

Susan Farnand to serve as IS&T Vice President of Publications

May. 15, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz

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Rochester Institute of Technology professor Susan Farnand has been named to a leadership position in the Society for Imaging Science and Technology, also known as IS&T.

Farnand, a professor in the RIT Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science and in the program of Color Science, will serve a two-year term as the IS&T Vice President of Publications, effective July 1.

“It’s an exciting, albeit somewhat challenging, time with new opportunities for the dissemination of information,” said Farnand. “I am looking forward to working with theJournal of Imaging Science & Technology editor and IS&T staff on the society’s publications program, as we strive to make the library, website and other vehicles valuable resources for those working in the broad field of imaging science and technology.”

Farnand, an active society member since 2007, is an associate editor of the Journal of Imaging Science & Technology and a past co-editor of a special issue of the Journal of Electronic Imaging on image quality. She has also chaired the honors and awards committee and participated in previous sessions of the International Conference on Digital Printing Technologies, or NIP, and Image Quality and Systems Performance conferences.

She was among the first cohort to earn her Ph.D. in color science from RIT in 2013. Farnand’s research interests include human color perception and color vision. She also uses eye-tracking technology to study what attracts people’s attention.

Farnand is a resident of Fairport, N.Y.

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Original Source: University News

RIT graduate student wins regional remote-sensing ‘Student of the Year’ award
Graduate
Remote Sensing
Student Stories

Javier Concha also presented his research at annual imaging conference in Baltimore

May. 15, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz

Rochester Institute of Technology graduate student Javier Concha was named Student of the Year by the Central New York Region of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

The society selected Concha, a Ph.D. student in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, from applicants in upstate New York, Vermont and north central Pennsylvania. He was awarded a one-year society membership, a certificate and $250 at the annual meeting in Rochester on April 15.

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Javier Concha was named Student of the Year by the Central New York Region of the American Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing.

“This award highlights my perseverance and passion for the field,” Concha said. “It is awesome to be recognized by my peers and scholars. It not only reinforces the importance of doing research but also the benefit of being a part of professional societies in your area of specialty. It opens doors for our future. I strongly encourage students to become members and participate actively of these organizations.”

Concha is also a member of RIT’s SPIE/OSA Student Chapter and will serve as its secretary next year.

Concha, originally from Concepción, Chile, came to RIT on a Fulbright scholarship to work on his master’s degree in the Center for Imaging Science. He earned his MS in 2012 and expects to finish his Ph.D. in spring 2015.

His thesis research explores the use of NASA’s Landsat 8 Earth-imaging satellite for monitoring fresh and coastal waters. Concha works closely with his adviser, RIT research professor John Schott, whose history with the Landsat program dates to the mid 1980s.

Concha shared his current research at the SPIE (International Society for Optics and Photonics) annual conference in Baltimore May 5–9, where he presented his paper titled, “A model-based ELM for atmospheric correction over Case 2 water with Landsat 8.”

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Original Source: University News

Landsat Calibration/Validation Team members recognized with NASA's Robert H. Goddard Award for Science
Faculty/Staff
Remote Sensing

Three SPIE Fellows and four SPIE Members were recently awarded the Robert H. Goddard Award for Science for their participation on the Landsat 8 Calibration/Validation Team (CVT), which contributed to the characterization, calibration, and performance understanding of the Landsat 8 sensors.

Jun. 10, 2014

Since 1972, Landsat satellites have been amassing information about Earth's land cover to better understand big issues like water use, carbon stocks, and global crop production. The Landsat Calibration/Validation Team ensures that Landsat data users can be confident that measurements made day-to-day, year-to-year, and Landsat sensor-to-sensor are comparable.

SPIE-affiliated team members were:

  • SPIE Fellow Kurtis Thome, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

  • SPIE Fellow John Schott, Rochester Institute of Technology 

  • SPIE Fellow Stuart Biggar, University of Arizona

  • SPIE Senior Member Jeff Czapla-Myers, University of Arizona

  • SPIE Member Phil Dabney, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

  • SPIE Member Raviv Levy, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center

  • SPIE Student Member Frank Pesta, South Dakota State University

The team, managed by Brian Markham, a longtime Landsat calibration scientist at Goddard, included 52 scientists from Goddard, the U.S. Geological Survey, Ball Aerospace & Technology Corp., South Dakota State University, Rochester Institute of Technology, University of Arizona, and the Jet Propulsion Lab.

Several team members are co-authors of papers scheduled to be presented at SPIE Optics + Photonics 2014, including:

  • "Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) detector to detector uniformity challenge and performance" [9218-43]

  • "On-orbit performance of the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager" [9218-41]

  • "Landsat-8 data processing evolution" [9218-46]

  • "Performance of the thermal infrared sensor onboard Landsat 8 over the first year on-orbit" [9218-42]

  • "Cross-calibration of Landsat 5 TM, and Landsat 8 OLI with Aqua MODIS using PICS" [9218-19]

  • "Landsat-8 Operational Land Imager on-orbit radiometric calibration and stability" [9218-40]

  • "Chasing the TIRS ghosts: calibrating the Landsat 8 thermal bands" [9218-45]

  • "The absolute radiometric calibration of the Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager using the reflectance-based approach and the Radiometric Calibration Test Site (RadCaTS)" [9218-44]

SPIE Optics + Photonics 2014: http://spie.org/op
Landsat 8 Sweeps the 2013 "Goddards": http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/?p=8028
Landsat Cal/Val Team Receives 2013 Robert H. Goddard Award for Science:http://landsat.gsfc.nasa.gov/?p=8017

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Original Source: spie.org

Imaging tools help radiologists diagnose lung cancer, save lives
Faculty/Staff
Graduate
Biomedical Imaging

RIT scientists develop imaging software to compare and measure nodules

Jun. 12, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz

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Associate professor Nathan Cahill ’97, ’00 (applied mathematics; industrial and applied mathematics), standing, is improving biomedical image computing, the focus of his Ph.D. research. He and imaging science Ph.D. student Kfir Ben Zikri ’11 (electrical engineering) are developing algorithms for a longitudinal study of lung nodules in CT scans. (A. Sue Weisler)

Medical-imaging software under development at Rochester Institute of Technology could someday give radiologists a tool for measuring the growth of nodules in patients at risk of lung cancer, the leading cause of cancer deaths in the United States, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

Nathan Cahill, an associate professor in RIT’s School of Mathematical Sciences, is creating algorithms to quantify the growth of lung nodules imaged on Computed Tomography (CT) scans. The two-year, longitudinal study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, compares existing scans of individual patients. The algorithms will analyze medical images, measuring changes in nodules to identify small cancers or, if stable, obviate unnecessary, often risky biopsies.

Simple factors can complicate the comparison of CT scans, creating extraneous information in medical images, introducing artifacts and possible errors in diagnosis.

“It’s not an apples-to-apples problem with reliable correspondence between two images,” Cahill said.

Discrepancies between scans of a single patient can result from differences in position and inhalation during imaging. A 10-pound weight gain between CT scans can also affect how surrounding organs push against the lungs and stretch or compress the nodules.

“Having even 1 or 2 millimeters of difference could throw off the estimates of the volumes of the nodules because the size of the nodules might be 5 millimeters or so,” Cahill said. “The goal of this project is to develop an algorithm that tries to compensate for all those potential background factors.”

Dr. David Fetzer, a radiologist at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a member of the collaboration, suggested the clinical problem. Fetzer, an alumnus from the RIT Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science, had worked as an undergraduate with Maria Helguera, professor in the center, and a member of Cahill’s team.

“Modern CT imaging devices produce hundreds and sometimes thousands of images,” Fetzer said. “If a patient is being followed for an abnormality, such as a lung nodule, a radiologist must compare these images visually, mentally compensating for differences such as patient position. Slight changes in technique between two CT scans may simulate tumor growth, for instance.”

Radiologists compute the doubling time of a nodule, or the range of time it takes for the size of the nodule to increase twofold. A mass that doubles in less than 30 days is growing fast and could be an infection, Cahill said. “If it takes more than one and a half years to double, it’s growing slowly and is probably benign. If it’s anywhere between that—one month and 1.5 years—then, it could be malignant and you have to do further testing and do biopsy.”

Cahill and Kfir Ben Zikri, a Ph.D. student in the Center for Imaging Science, are registering, or aligning, backgrounds to create a common frame of reference between sets of images. The process geometrically transforms one three-dimensional image into another and compensates for background information that blurs edges of nodules, even when underlying diseases like emphysema or fibrosis make intensities in the background brighter.

“Then we can estimate the volumes, which will allow us to more accurately estimate the doubling time and have a better chance to determine if it’s a malignant growth or benign,” Cahill said.

The technology will be part of the free software libraries offered by Kitware, a North Carolina-based, open-source software company that specializes in medical image analyses. Cahill and Ben Zikri work closely with scientists at Kitware and professor Marc Niethammer at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Fetzer is selecting 30 CT scans of patients treated for lung cancer at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. The images are scrubbed of patient-identifying information and sent to Cahill and Ben Zikri. Fetzer will clinically verify the algorithmic results.

“With today’s technology we have the ability to create three-dimensional datasets, volumes of image data that can be manipulated and analyzed in non-visual ways,” Fetzer said. “With techniques such as this we may be able to compensate for background changes and, hopefully, more accurately show growth, assess aggressiveness or prove stability of a nodule. This accurate assessment could dramatically affect patient care, decrease cost and the number unnecessary procedures, and improve outcomes through earlier cancer detection.”

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Original Source: University News

RIT honors faculty with innovative teaching awards
Faculty/Staff
Awards/Recognition

RIT honors faculty with innovative teaching awards

May. 22, 2014
Vienna McGrain

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The Excellence in Faculty Mentoring Award recognizes faculty members who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to faculty mentoring by actively helping non-tenured faculty in developing their careers.

Harvey Rhody, professor of imaging science, Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science in the College of Science, came to RIT in 1970. His research interests include imaging systems, remote sensing, imaging algorithms and image processing.

To see a full list of recipients, click the "Read Full Story" link below.

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Original Source: University News

Kamran Binaee

2nd Year PhD Student
Undergraduate program and school: Electronics Engineering University of Guilan, Iran
Hometown: Tehran, Iran

My Masters thesis focused on Medical Image Processing and Enhancement, so I was often searching for universities that are reputable in the field of Imaging - which brought me to the Center for Imaging Science at RIT. The multidisciplinary nature of CIS was an interesting feature that I really wanted to experience. Being exposed to different applications, from medical to hyperspectral imaging, from electron microcopy where we are looking for an object of a size of 10 nanometers, to astronomical imaging where we are looking for objects thousands of kilometers big, is an awesome experience! I’m currently working as a graduate research assistant within my research field of interest: Virtual Reality. Using this powerful tool and combining it with motion capture technology plus a built in eye-tracker, we are studying how human perception systems interact with the world. When I came here my upper-class friends used to tell me, “Hey, you’ll meet all the nicest and most helpful people in CIS.” As far as my experience goes, I couldn't agree more; we’re actually a “family” here.

Christian M. Lewis, MS '14

M.S. Imaging Science '14
Undergraduate Program and School: Aerospace Engineering at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University
Hometown: Somerset, NJ

I’ve always had an interest in “seeing” the world in more than just the red, green, blue that our eyes provide. It was only a matter of time before I found the only school in the country that offers a degree in Imaging Science. Imaging Science is the investigation of the electromagnetic spectrum and its interaction with the environment for the exploitation of information. In other words: using light, heat, and other forms of radiation to perceive the environment in a way that humans cannot do naturally. Having studied engineering, I'm familiar with the cross-collaboration necessary to design and build aerospace systems.This generally includes a team of specialists familiar with their subsystems, but not able to independently perform an end-to-end analysis of the system as a whole. Conversely, Imaging Science gave me the opportunity to learn the physics, mathematics, and computer science necessary to perform a comprehensive end-to-end analysis on the entire "imaging chain.” The specialized nature of Imaging Science at RIT gives students the opportunity to be among those advancing the forefront of this discipline.

Building bridges - WiSTEE Connect
Faculty/Staff
WiSTEE

Mentoring connections can span generations for women in technical fields

Aug. 18, 2014
Susan Gawlowicz

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Jie Qiao

By the time she reached midcareer, scientist Jie Qiao knew something was fundamentally wrong with the science-and-technology workforce. She was struck by the dwindling number of her female colleagues presenting at professional conferences or assuming leadership positions.

“There are a lot of reasons why women drop out of science,” said Qiao, an associate professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.

Many women feel isolated, lonely and taxed by competing demands of work and home, she noted. Others feel in need of mentorship, out of the loop, excluded from informal decision-making opportunities and disliked for their successes.

Qiao knows the scenarios firsthand as a woman in the male-dominated field of optics and photonics. She established her career developing technology for photonics, optical instrumentation and laser systems in laboratories in the corporate and academic sectors.

Outside of the laboratory, Qiao has a growing reputation as the founder and chairperson of an organization that brings together women in science, technology, engineering and entrepreneurship called WiSTEE Connect. Qiao launched the networking organization in 2013 at the University of Rochester and brought it to RIT later that year. The group has quickly grown into a regional organization.

“Promoting women and science is not my job, not my research,” she said. “I am doing this because of my passion for science and technology. I want to use my talent in my field and I also want other women to be able to use their talents. But there is a challenge for women to stay in this field.”

The response to the professional networking events Qiao has organized in China, UR, RIT and at an Optical Society of America conference confirms her belief that junior faculty and mid-career women need more support.

“Mid-career women are the bridge generation for connecting with more senior and more junior people,” Qiao said. “You have continuity. You look up and you see someone in front of you; you look back and you see your past. And that is motivating because you see the overall picture; you’re not isolated.”

Entrepreneurship is another key aspect of WiSTEE Connect.

“I wanted to introduce entrepreneurial thinking to the academic world,” said Qiao, who earned her MBA from the UR’s Simon Business School. “I recognized how important global marketing, strategy and leadership are to scientists and engineers. It brings a different perspective to a woman’s career. Entrepreneurial thinking helps academic women achieve a balance of opportunities, team and resources.”

WiSTEE Connect is a multidisciplinary and cross-ranking platform for providing an environment to foster a “mentorship ecosystem” and collaboration in the spirit of “cooperative advancement,” she said. Qiao envisions it growing into a national organization for women to share experiences, knowledge and strategies for mentoring, collaborating and navigating their careers as well as for overcoming unspoken stereotypical expectations.

“There is a lot of effort to get girls in science and engineering,” Qiao said. “But there is no point if they cannot grow through the field and have a fruitful career through their life.”

For more information about WiSTEE Connect, go to www.wisteeconnect.org.

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(Nathan Cahill) RIT students Amanda Ziemann, left, and Selene Chew attended a conference in Lausanne, Switzerland, and connected with seasoned industry professionals.

Connections in action

Jie Qiao had RIT students like Amanda Ziemann and Selene Chew in mind when she founded Women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Entrepreneurship Connect. The professional networking organization provides concrete support, mentorship and collaboration for students and young women on the cusp of their professional lives and through the rest of their careers. It bridges women at the junior and middle levels with those in leadership roles, said Qiao, an associate professor in RIT’s Chester F. Carlson Center for Imaging Science.

Ziemann and Chew gained professional perspective, opportunity and visibility—goals central to WiSTEE Connect—while attending the Workshop on Hyperspectral Image and Signal Processing: Evolution in Remote Sensing in June with their mentors, RIT professors David Messinger and Nathan Cahill, respectively. Ziemann, a Ph.D. student in the Center for Imaging Science, presented a paper and co-chaired her first session, while Chew, a third-year computational mathematics major and honors student, gave a poster presentation at her first international conference.

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Source: RIT University News

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